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Simone H. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs.

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 7, 2014

SIMONE H., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES, OFFICE OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES, Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Palmer, Gregory Heath, Judge. Superior Court No. 3PA-10-00163 CN.

Renee McFarland, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant.

David A. Wilkinson, Assistant Attorney General, Fairbanks, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Margaret McWilliams, Assistant Public Advocate, Juneau, and Richard Allen, Public Advocate, Anchorage, for Guardian Ad Litem.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices. [Winfree, Justice, not participating.].

OPINION

Page 285

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Simone H. appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to her son, Irving.[1] Simone challenges the trial court's denial of her request to have Irving's therapy records released to her for use during the termination trial and the trial court's finding that the State Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Children's Services (OCS) made reasonable efforts to provide services designed to enable Irving's safe return to her custody. We conclude that the trial court acted within its discretion in denying Simone's request for access to Irving's therapy records and that substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that OCS made reasonable efforts to reunify Simone with Irving.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Simone is the mother of Irving, who was born in 2003. Simone has a history of engaging in relationships with violent partners, and has mental health and substance abuse issues. In 2009 Simone began counseling with psychiatric nurse practitioner Kathleen Hammaker, who also provided Simone with mental health medication management services. Hammaker treated Simone for obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and mood disorders,

Page 286

and she prescribed Simone various medications.

In October 2010, after receiving a protective services report alleging that Simone had failed to seek medical attention for Irving after he had been injured in a bicycle accident, that she was addicted to drugs, and that she had been leaving Irving unattended for hours at a time, an OCS specialist and a police officer went to Simone's home, where they found alcohol, illicit drugs, and drug paraphernalia. As a result, Simone's partner, who had recently been released from jail, was arrested for parole violations. Simone refused to participate in a drug screen. OCS took emergency custody of Irving and filed an emergency petition to have the child adjudicated a child in need of aid (CINA).

OCS developed a case plan for Simone that called for her to participate in parenting classes, complete a family violence intervention program, complete a psychological evaluation, continue to engage in mental health treatment, obtain a substance abuse assessment, participate in drug screens, and participate in family contact with Irving. Hammaker arranged for Simone to begin receiving services from Daybreak, an organization that provides case management services including skill development, connection to service providers, transportation to appointments, and assistance in organizing daily activities to persons who have been diagnosed with mental illness. Simone's Daybreak counselor, Polly-Beth Odom, prepared a case plan that was designed to facilitate Simone's compliance with OCS's case plan. Odom, who shared the plan with OCS, testified that Daybreak's goals included assisting Simone with mental health recovery and family reunification. She stated that Daybreak helped Simone with housing, social connections, budgeting, life skills, safety monitoring, and avoiding abusive relationships.

In March 2011 OCS referred Simone to Dr. Heather Macomber for a neuropsychological evaluation because it was concerned about her mental condition. Dr. Macomber recommended that OCS set specific goals for Simone and that Simone continue to receive psychiatric care and medication and participate in therapy. Dr. Macomber did not recommend that Simone participate in substance abuse treatment.

Shortly after this evaluation Simone tested positive for methamphetamine. OCS thereupon referred her for a substance abuse assessment at Set Free Alaska, which was conducted in June 2011. Simone did not participate in the intensive ...


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